Modern relationships are such a mindfuck. We analyze and agonize over them. We scour the Internet in pursuit of them. We write about them. We try in vain to make sense of them. We run both towards and away from them. And perhaps most of all, we have a ton of expectations about them.
For years, I’ve absorbed what I’ve seen in movies and what I’ve heard about what happy relationships should look like. Combined with my insecurities, loneliness, and near inability to give myself the love I think I deserve from others, I always mentally create a set of expectations that I almost don’t even realize I’m carrying until it’s too late. But I also know that I’m not the only one who has them.
Time and experience has helped me debunk a majority of these, and I hope they serve as a welcome reminder to all the moody hopeless romantics of the world.
What we tend to expect: A warm and steady flow of validation
What we should expect instead: Honesty
Being showered with affection and praise is wonderful and should be expected to a reasonably extent (because you deserve to be adored), but it’s not your partner’s job to make you feel worthy. It’s yours. Although it may occasionally lead to discomfort and conflict, an honest partner is much more rewarding than a partner who simply tells you what you want to hear for the sake of keeping the peace.
Choose someone who calls you on your bullshit. Choose someone who challenges you. Choose someone who craves honest communication over superficial and easy-to-digest platitudes. We should all be with someone who helps transform us into the best person we can be, not someone who tells us we’re perfect just the way we are. No one is. You’re pretty great, but you could always improve yourself. Be with someone who isn’t afraid to tell you that.
What we tend to expect: Constant communication
What we should expect instead: Independence
Good morning and goodnight texts with marathon conversations in between are lovely, especially during the early stages of a relationship. But it’s important to maintain productive and enriching lives outside of it. If your partner isn’t communicating with you nearly every second of every day, it doesn’t mean they don’t care. It simply means they have a life, and you’re simply a part of it. Frequent communication is necessary in a sense, but constant communication is not. If talking to your partner is taking up a majority of your time every day, ask yourself where that excess time and energy could be directed instead.
What we tend to expect: Relative effortlessness
What we should expect instead: Hard work
No relationship should feel like an uphill battle, but you can damn well expect them to take hard work and dedication. People change, and obstacles present themselves. If you want a successful relationship, you have to work for it the same way you work for everything else in your life. And most of that work will be on yourself.
What we tend to expect: A borderline spiritual sense of understanding
What we should expect instead: Surprises
You could spend 50 years with a person and still not know them. No matter how many traits you’ve discovered and how many layers you’ve peeled back, there will always be more to learn. It’s up to you to decide if this truth is inspiring or crippling. It’s a romantic notion to assume we know our partners better than they know themselves, but that’s justifiably impossible. Expect surprises. Some will be good, and some will be bad, but love is about learning to accept both.
What we tend to expect: A prince/princess
What we should expect instead: A flawed human being
Rose-colored glasses will always fall off. No matter how wonderful a person may seem, they will eventually disappoint you – sometimes greatly and in ways that seem unforgivable at the time. So expect plenty of flaws, but learn to love them anyway. Flaws are an inevitable part of every human package. It’s your job to figure out what you can live with.
What we tend to expect: Grand gestures
What we should expect instead: Small gestures
Life isn’t a Disney or a Hallmark movie. Don’t expect bells, whistles, flowers, grand apologies, and flash mob proposals. Those things happen, sure, but they’re not the norm. If you expect your partner to shout their love from the rooftops or go above and beyond to impress you, you will feel disappointed and they will feel pressured. It’s the little things that truly count – the word of encouragement before the big job interview, the morning forehead kiss, the look you give each other when no one else understands your inside joke. These little moments can be magical if you’re willing to notice them.
What we tend to expect: Fireworks
What we should expect instead: A slow burn
I don’t believe in love at first sight or divine messages from the universe that you’ve found your soulmate. Love rarely hits you like a bolt of lightning. Some of the best and most successful relationships started slowly and with little to no expectation. A slow and steady burn is so much more romantic than something that hits you all at once. And honestly, where’s the fun in that?
What we tend to expect: Forever love
What we should expect instead: Right now love
Nothing lasts forever. Even if you’re extremely lucky enough to marry your partner and spend years and years with them, one of you will eventually die and leave the other behind. Impermanence is imminent, no matter what. Instead of wanting and expecting a love that lasts forever, embrace the love you have in this moment. After all, this moment is the only thing that truly belongs to you.